In 1983, with a small truckload of borrowed fruit and a rented cellar, Rob Griffin and his wife Deborah Barnard established Barnard Griffin Winery. Since that time, it has become one of Washington’s most enduring and award-winning wineries. Nearly half of the wine produced comes from their estate vineyard, Caroway, while the remaining fruit is sourced from some of the best vineyards in Washington State. Since inception, Barnard Griffin has cultivated strong partnerships with vineyards and viticulturists throughout the Columbia Valley. These wines are distinctly Washington, with ample weight and expressive fruit, framed beautifully with elegant structure and terrific length.
Columbia Valley was granted AVA status in 1984. Located on the eastern side of Washington, it is the largest AVA in the state, responsible for 99% of total wine production. With its dessert-like conditions (average annual rainfall is only 6-8 inches per year), irrigation is a necessity. The Columbia River, as well as snowmelt from the Cascade Mountains, supplies the region’s water for agriculture. Washington has an interesting dynamic between winemakers and grape growers in that they are often exclusively ‘Makers’ or ‘Growers’. Today, nearly 50% of Barnard Griffin’s fruit is grown on the estate.
This 2018 Merlot was sourced from four vineyards: Black Rock (Yakima Valley); Vinagium (Red Mountain); Caroway (Columbia Valley); and Lonesome Spring Ranch (Yakima Valley). All vineyards are farmed sustainably.
Merlot, which in French means ‘The Little Blackbird’, is the second most popular red grape in America (after Cabernet Sauvignon). Known for being soft, ripe and elegant, most Merlots are easy drinking reds that go well with food but can be enjoyed on their own. It is believed that the first time the grape was used in making wine was in the late 1700s when a French winemaker in the Bordeaux region formally labeled the grape as an ingredient in his Bordeaux blend. When the grape arrived in California in the mid-nineteenth century, instead of being blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, American winemakers began making wines using 100% Merlot.
Harvested in the evening to maintain freshness. During maceration on the skins, pump-overs are performed twice daily. Fermentation temperature tops out at 29°C, with 19 months in a combination of new and neutral European oak barriques to soften the wine.
This is a true representation of high altitude, Washington State Merlot. Rich and textured, with layers of dark fruit and salty minerality, offset by subtle tannins, balancing acidity and a hint of sweet oak vanillin. There is ample weight, but the wine is certainly not brooding. It can be enjoyed on its own with good company, but also makes a fantastic backyard barbecue wine.